Attorney General: State Legislature's Tactic Is Legal

Dec 4, 2018

Republican Attorney General Bill Schuette says it is constitutional for Michigan's Legislature to pass bills initiated as ballot drives and subsequently amend them in the same legislative session.

Schuette's opinion was made public Tuesday as the GOP-controlled House prepared to vote to significantly scale back minimum wage and paid sick leave laws that legislators passed in September so they would be easier to change now.

Organizers of the ballot initiatives say the strategy is unconstitutional, and legal challenges are likely if Gov. Rick Snyder signs the bills.

In his opinion dated Monday, Schuette says the state constitution imposes restrictions on lawmakers' ability to amend voter-approved laws, but it has no "express limitations on amending a legislatively enacted initiated law."

He says Michigan courts have said legislatively enacted initiatives should be treated similarly to ordinary legislation.

A House panel backed the legislation on party lines Tuesday. The full House may approve the bills later Tuesday before they move to Gov. Rick Snyder, who has not said where he stands.

To prevent the ballot initiatives from going to electorate, where they would be much harder to change if voters had passed them, GOP lawmakers approved them in September so they could alter them now with majority votes.

The business community supports delaying the boost in the minimum wage until at least 2030 and limiting paid sick time requirements to employers with 50 or more workers.

Opponents say the move is illegal and an insult to voters.